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Flight takes sudden, violent plummet while cruising over the Pacific

Pilot Plunges Plane 600 Feet To Avoid In-Air Crash

On April 25, Kevin Townsend was flying high above the Pacific towards California when his plane suddenly and violently plummeted.

Recalling the experience in a post on Medium, he wrote, "It was like being in freefall.'

He later learned from the pilots that the freefall was very intentional; in fact, the United Airlines Boeing 757 was just 20 seconds away from a potential collision with another commercial flight in the same flight path.

ABC recounted the story:

"I was flying from Kona on the western side of Big Island and connecting through LAX to go home to San Francisco. We climbed up, looped around the Big Island, and reached cruising altitude, and stayed there for 5 or 10 or even 15 minutes," Townsend told ABC News today.

"All of a sudden out of nowhere, the plane cuts into a steep dive," he said.

"It was like being on an elevator dropping really quickly. You start to fall with gravity, not like in a fighter jet pressed up against your seat. It was like being in freefall. It was kind of exhilarating, like you're weightless," he said.

The sensation lasted five or six seconds, he said, during which a few passengers around him began screaming. His mind raced through the possibilities of what could be happening.

"It was so sudden that it seemed like something had gone wrong, because you don't expect that at all. But there was no sound involved and the plane didn't seem to be out of control. It was tough to conceive of why it happened. Your body thinks, 'did the engines just go out and we're diving into the ocean?' But then you feel like this is somewhat controlled," he explained.


After the drop, Townsend said a flight attendant took to the loud speaker and said 'Well, that was unexpected."

American airlines issued this statement following the incident:

"The safety of our passengers and crew is our top priority. We are working with the authorities as they look into what may have happened."

The FAA's Pacific Division announced yesterday, May 15, 2014, they'd sent a team to investigate and would be releasing a report soon.

Join the discussion

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kdidmore777 May 16 2014 at 10:59 PM

why was'nt the airlines diricting the paths so these instances do not happen! Thank god for the pilots and thier quick reflexes to save so many lives I commend you! No it isn't safer in a car there are a lot more cars than airplanes in the air at the same time and flighy patters! so god bless the airlines for not having another accident again! say prayers before you leave and always tell the people you love them before and when you get back home safely!

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1 reply
cact25 kdidmore777 May 16 2014 at 11:41 PM

Aircraft are not direceteb by airlines. They are controlled by ATC (Air Traffic Control) controllers. Modern airliners also have collision avoidance systems on board.

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1 reply
cact25 cact25 May 16 2014 at 11:41 PM

typo - directed

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blo2thehead May 17 2014 at 12:48 AM

That'll be 3 e-tickets please

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Davidi May 17 2014 at 3:55 AM

Don't complain....they saved your life going into a dive. It was the ATC that must of screwed up, putting the plane on the incoming path.

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Dave May 17 2014 at 6:06 AM

good thing both planes didn't do the same thing

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Harry Cohen May 16 2014 at 9:51 PM

I never heard a word if the one pilot who dived warned the other thinking the other might try the same maneuver. I know, too fast to take all precautions. At least all worked out. BTW.. What was the free in-flight entertainment for all? A few loops along the way perhaps? :-)

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1 reply
cact25 Harry Cohen May 16 2014 at 11:47 PM

The pilots don't have time to communicate. The computers do it.

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David May 16 2014 at 9:40 PM

I want to take this opportunity to make an observation. The airlines are fond of touting how travel by airliner is safer than travel by car. This may be true in deaths per miles traveled, however, your chances of surviving a car crash are good (especially considering the safety features of modern automobiles), your chances of surviving an airliner crash are extremely poor.

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1 reply
Phil David May 16 2014 at 10:55 PM

Yes but there are many tens of thousandsof car crashes per Airline crash. Thirty or so thousands of deaths from car crashes

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1 reply
David Phil May 16 2014 at 11:51 PM

I think you missed my point.

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homeinsulation May 16 2014 at 9:05 PM

Let's commend the fast-acting pilot for his swift life-saving action and thank God there was no disaster: this is a happy ending folks, stop the whining over the 'scary incident' and celebrate the moment. Damn.

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nriggs4640 May 16 2014 at 8:56 PM

As former air traffic controller and a retired Boeing 747 captain I can honestly say that while I have no doubt it was a scary thing for most of the passengers this is something that is pretty rare and both aircrew deviated to miss each other because of a command from traffic avoidance harware/software the was made and designed to prevent a mid air collision. It works! I have over 18,000 as a pilot and have NEVER had anything like this happen to me so as I said, a pretty rare occurance.

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KERWIN May 16 2014 at 8:44 PM

I think one plane was United Airlines and the other plane was US Airways (American owns them now), that's why the two different names. That's what they said on the news last night...

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iluvfreespeech May 16 2014 at 8:24 PM

what happened was someone in the control tower was scratching his nutts and dreaming about freebies from Obama made possible by our tax dollars

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2 replies
tom841 iluvfreespeech May 16 2014 at 9:26 PM

Thanks. The article was pretty poorly written and did not make that clear.

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buddhaaaaa iluvfreespeech May 16 2014 at 9:29 PM

Oh please ... give it a rest.
Nobody here wants to read your BS
Do us all a favor ...
Just go crawl back under your rock.

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